Forest can spooky, beautiful, dark, bright, widespread and so on. But in games they serve the purpose of conveying the right emotion to the player. A horror game’s forest will be different from a fantasy game’s forest. When it comes to designing one you can follow some simple steps to quickly make a forest for your game. In this post we will see how to make a forest in Unity and the basic principles one must employ to make them look good. Before we start, you should know that forests are built on terrains in unity and you can use these terrain generators to make beautiful terrains in minutes.
5 basic principles of forest design
1.There should be many variety of trees
A forest by definition is a large area covered by a variety of vegetation. So, its better to follow the definition to make a good forest. Include as many types of trees you can. Not just the type you can also play around with the height of the trees to get more of an random look. You also need to look out for the optimization as too many trees can drag your game’s performance. You will need to do some trail and error to hit the sweet spot.
2. Clustering is important
The first thing everyone does while placing trees in terrain is to place then one by one. They try to evenly space out trees. This may look good if you are building a garden or a farm. A forest is full of randomness so, get in and play mad. Place trees wherever you like. Place 2 or 3 trees very close together, place some far way and lonely. The best way is to plant your path inside the forest. Once its clear how you are going to move around inside the forest place trees to guide the players along the path. Taking the reference of a actual forest will help.
3. Don’t forget about dead trees
Dead is not always bad. They are a part of everything. Same goes for the forest. You need some young plants, some old plant and some dead plants. The mixture of these does the magic to create a perfect environment. You can also be a little creative in adding dead trees. The tree doesn’t need to be standing straight with a dead trunk, you can make it fall on other trees or across a river. Be creative and be bold to test.
4. Add other elements too
Forest may dominantly consist of trees but trees are not everything there is in a forest. There are rocks, small bushes, creepers, rivers, streams, ponds and animals in a forest. Add them to your forest to make it more natural. A forest without a water trail is a boring one. Make sure to a add a river that runs very close to the player’s game trail.
5. Make way for light
In the process of creating forest we might forget that light needs to get inside the forest. Without visibility your beautiful forest will look dark. Unless you are planning to make a horror game inside your forest, you need to plan ways to let light enter the forest environment. It doesn’t need to be as lit a s a room just enough light to add visibility and to make the forest navigable for the player.
How to create a forest in Unity
Procedural forest generation
There are tools in Unity that allow you to make forest within minutes using procedural generation. You can use them if you don’t want much customization of your forest. Some tools do make really good looking forest.
When it comes to procedural generation, nothing can beat Gaia. You can have your terrain in a matter of minutes. Gaia comes with a pro and normal version. Pro is for people who work with terrains all the time. If you need it only for forest creation then you can go for Gaia 2.
Gaia has its own limitations when it comes to spawning. This is where Gena comes in. Gena takes spawning to a whole new level. You can consider having Gena along with Gaia if you have the budget for it but, Gaia should do the trick for most of the time.